A David Bowie Collaborator Insists ‘Blackstar’ Wasn’t Meant To Be A Farewell Album Despite Popular Belief

Five years ago today, David Bowie released his final album, Blackstar, on his birthday. Two days later, he died. A common belief about the record around its release was that Bowie, knowing he didn’t have much time left, intended it to be a farewell album. However, one of his collaborators doesn’t think that’s the case.

Donny McCaslin, who was part of the jazz ensemble with whom Bowie worked on the album, spoke about Blackstar as part of a new oral history from NME. He explained why he didn’t think Bowie saw Blackstar as a farewell, saying:

“There is the narrative of Blackstar being this farewell, which I totally get. But that coexists with the fact that he was just so creative. He was planning on doing more. When I went to listen to the album at his apartment in November 2015, the idea came up of doing some small gigs. The Village Vanguard is like Mecca for jazz folks and I had my first run there happening in January. We talked about how to do a little rehearsal and soundcheck and, of course, it was going to depend on how he felt. We talked again in December around the time of the musical and he said he didn’t want to — he was working on new music and he wanted to record in January.”

Elsewhere in the piece, McCaslin spoke about the overwhelmingly positive experience he had working on the album with Bowie:

“The first day in the studio was a mixture of excitement, anticipation and hoping that it was all going to go smoothly. I was loving the music he had sent and I had done some work on it on my end with woodwinds and with voicing things that I hadn’t told anybody about, so I was excited to unveil that. When we got going, it just felt seamless and organic — the analogy I would use is that the group was like a basketball team where we were constantly sharing the ball and throwing it back and forth.

That first day, the spirit of what David told us was, ‘Let’s not worry about what this will be called, let’s just go have fun and anything you’re hearing, I want you to go for it.’ He didn’t say ‘no inhibitions,’ but that was the spirit of what he said. It was great to have that affirmation before we even started and to sense that he trusted us with this music. You couldn’t have asked for it to be a better environment creatively.”

Check out the full Blackstar oral history here.